Living Yoga Off The Mat? (Part 1)
We wake up at 5am, shower and hit the yoga mat. We are proud to be doing our daily yoga practice, but as we roll our mat away and continue with our day, are we still living our life as a Yogi?
As you know, Yoga is much more than the practice of asanas, so let us take two steps back and look at the bigger picture. The journey of self-transformation, as I was mentioning in the previous blog post, is not a complete one if, according to Patanjali, we are not practicing all eight limbs of Yoga.
Today, let’s look at the first of these eight limbs, the Yamas. The Yamas are usually known as the ethical rules or right living, or norms of social behavior.
If you’re the type of person who tends to reject social rules, hang in there. I was also that person. This is not about being told by society how we should behave or not. It’s a much deeper guideline, it is still very much relevant in 2019 because it does not have anything to do with a social context and a time in history. It is a wisdom to help us, to guide us into leading a conscious, ethical and honest life.
Besides its common meaning, non-harming or non-violence also means the active practice of seeking to reduce the amount of harm occurring in the world. If we look away from all harms being done to humanity, all living beings, our beautiful planet, how are we practicing non-harming?
Of course we can't possibly take the weight of the world on our shoulders but when we start shifting our attention towards this very important Yama, we see that even small actions, although easy, can become very impactful.
An example of non-harming can be as simple as reducing the use of plastics (ahimsa of our ecosystem).
Ahimsa is also about non-harming ourselves. If we are not kind or loving towards our own being, our body and mind, how can we recognize ourselves in all other living?
As our journey unfolds, I find this practice is such a powerful way of bringing harmony in our experience and maintaining inner peace.
Communication should be honest and constructive. Words and actions are powerful weapons, they can build relationships between people and can destroy countries.
But Satya is not only about not telling lies. Being True is also about clarity, about not twisting reality, aligning our thoughts, speech and actions with Truthfulness. Our thoughts are often filled with illusions, wishful thinking or distortions, mostly about ourselves.
Now this can be a touchy subject!
Specially in the era of misrepresentation of oneself, which is widely encouraged through social media! Everyone wants to be unique and extraordinary! Everyone can post fancy posts or pictures, but at the end of the day, what matters is if we are remaining true to ourselves. Impressing others won’t lead to anywhere significant. Asking myself if something is true for me, I find, leads me to the right way of living for myself. It never fails.
Once again, Asteya is not only about the literal translation, the act of stealing from someone, but also the lack of acknowledgement or gratitude for others for what they offer us.
So we are not only referring to tangible objects, but also to non tangible ones like information, favors, etc. I was reading somewhere that the urge of stealing arises from the sense of unhappiness, incompleteness and envy. Are we aware when we do this?
We may have to go deeper into our emotions, to look at the root cause of our behaviors. I may not be stealing money from anyone, but am I stealing ideas from others from the internet and throwing it out as my own, without proper credit, for my own benefit and recognition?
I always had deep appreciation for those who acknowledge the work and inspiration of others, and are not afraid of showing it. They inspire me in their turn, and help me want to be like that. I feel bringing a sense of gratitude, whether it is towards a mentor, a peer or a stranger, usually points me to the right direction.
Brahmacharya: Moderation or right use of the senses
This is commonly translated as celibacy or self-restraint. If we look at a wider expression in our society today and for those living in family situations (not monkhood), it may translate into moderation in all actions, and the senses.
Brahmacharya means freedom from dependency and cravings, replacing pleasure from senses with inner joy.
We should be aware about what we expose our senses to (what we hear, watch, environments in which we hang out, the food we eat, physical and emotional relations we maintain, etc). When we control our physical impulses of excess, we start gaining more energy.
When we withdraw our senses within, we realize how much energy we have been wasting on a daily basis. There are several practices that support this but a simple practice that always works for me, is to sit in silence for at least a few minutes a day.
Not cluttering our minds with excess thoughts, desires, wants and attachments. Also means uncluttering the outer world. Our life and society revolves around consumption but hopefully one day we may finally realize that more possessions won’t bring us more joy, and can in fact become a source of suffering.
Non-hoarding practice can be extremely liberating. It literally gives a sense of lightness, which can be felt physically, mentally, emotionally.
Throwing away hasn't been a difficult practice for me over the years. What was more challenging was to want less, buy less. Bringing awareness to each situation when I felt like I needed something new. Most times, it was not even necessary, or another solution was possible, rather than buying something new.
This is an ongoing journey, the uncluttering of the mind, emotions and of physical belongings.
It can take an entire lifetime to fully live by these guidelines! No need to be discouraged, even if we fail again and again. Glimpses of liberated state of existence can be experienced through our daily practice of the Yamas. This is but the beginning of a beautiful journey.
It's Spring, Nature's cleansing time... give it a try ;)